“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
– Mother Teresa
It’s getting close to the holiday season, and the spirit of giving is already in the air. For decades, the Christmas Cactus has been the gift of choice in the early holiday season for its delightful holiday-timed blooms.
Origin of the Christmas Cactus
Despite their popularity and unique ability to be ever-on-trend, these plants are actually poorly named for many reasons. Also known as Schlumbergera truncata, they aren’t cacti at all, but are actually epiphytes native to the rainforests of Brazil. They are tropical plants with a preference for moderate moisture and light, and an inclination to bloom beautifully at opportune moments in the holiday season, giving your holidays a special cheer and style.
These plants are perfect to have at home during the darkest days of the winter because of their beautiful show of blooms during the winter. They save their delightful showers of flowers for the depths of winter right around the holiday season, making them the perfect gift to loved ones (or yourself). Their vibrant, colorful blooms bring a new flavor of cheer to those suffering under the slump of the winter blues – a gift of joy in the darkest days when people might need that little boost the most.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Cacti
Many may not realize there are actually three types of Holiday cactus: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. The Thanksgiving Cactus, coming in a multitude of colors, is what is in stores at this point in the holiday season and have prominently serrated leaf edges with sharp points.
A true heirloom Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera x buckleyi, has more dulled, blunt edges and are only have pink flowers. They are generally not found in stores today and are actually quite rare, typically only found when handed down by friends or family members.
Also worthy of mention is the Easter Cactus, Hatiora gaertneri, which flower in the months of March and April as the days get longer. The leaves have blunt, dulled edges that are often ringed in red, and may even have little hairs at the top of each. The flowers of these plants are much different then the other two in that they are daisy-like and close up at night, while the others do not.
How to Get Your Holiday Cactus to Bloom
We would all love it if our holiday cactus could read a calendar and give us an impressive show on the exact days that we want. While it’s not quite as easy as that to get your cactus to bloom on a timeline, you can certainly encourage it to burst into bloom when you want by following these simple steps!
The first step is to allow your plant to dry out thoroughly between waterings starting in October. Holiday Cactus can tell when it’s time to bloom when the nights get longer than 12 hours, which naturally happens around November. If you’ve had trouble getting your holiday cactus to flower, it’s important to make sure it is in a room where lights are not on at night to encourage flower buds. Keeping your plant cooler at night, around 65 degrees can also help to encourage flower blooms.
Once flower buds have formed, return to a regular watering schedule. Regular watering is especially important once your cactus has begun to flower in order to keep beautiful vibrant blooms on your plant.
Aftercare for Your Holiday Cactus
Once your Holiday Cactus has finished blooming for the season, decrease your watering schedule again to about once a month until spring. Starting in March, fertilize once every other month through August, as giving your plant a summer vacation outside can help with healthy growth.
Make sure to put your Holiday Cactus in a shaded area outside. Pay attention to how much natural rainfall is occuring, as too much can be a bad thing. Finally, make sure to bring it back inside before it frosts in the fall.
Thanksgiving Cactus Gift Ideas
If you want to give a loved one the gift of holiday cheer, a Thanksgiving Cactus is the gift that keeps on giving. Here are some of our favorite ways to make your gift extra special:
- Specialty pots – The plant is the same, but you can make it shine extra bright with a beautiful pot. Your friends and loved ones will be excited to put their plant on display with the elegant and sophisticated touch of a specialty pot.
- Hand-Decorated Pots – This option allows the more crafty and DIY among us to give a personal touch to their gift. Start from scratch on a pot you have lying around or pick up a new one to personalize and give someone something that is unique to your relationship and ready to help showcase their new plant.
- Hand-Painted Card – For those that want to have an added special touch with their gift, a hand-painted or drawn card is a great way to show someone that you care. Place the card on a stake in the pot so that it can decorate the cactus no matter which pot they transplant to. It can be as simple or intricate as you’d like, and is a great way to add some personal flair to your plant, while letting your loved one know how special they are to you and how thankful you are to have them in your life.
Holiday Cacti are a tradition that we don’t think will ever get old. Gorgeous all year long and lovably low-maintenance, they offer a spectacular show for a seasonal pick-me-up and a colorful reminder of spring-to-come.